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An American Journey

I vividly remember sitting in the living room of my grandmother’s house in Piedra Blanca, Dominican Republic. The room had been cleared of furniture. Before me, a flower-filled casket held the body of a young girl—my sister Nelsida, age seven. She had died from an anesthesia overdose prior to surgery.

I was five. I will never forget the sight of the cotton balls inside her nose and ears, the ice under the casket and the

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